Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has claimed he considered Everton to be the ‘next proper challenger’ in the Premier League from the moment that three-time Champions League winning Carlo Ancelotti was appointed in December.
Ancelotti could only guide Everton to 12th place in the Premier League in his first half season in charge, but strong summer recruitment – which the 61-year-old Italian demanded to have a significant say in – has seen the Toffees win all four games of 2020/21 to top the table.
Describing Ancelotti as a ‘wonderful human being’ as Liverpool prepare for the Merseyside derby in Saturday’s early kick-off, Klopp told BBC Football Focus, “When I heard he was going to sign for Everton I thought, ‘the next proper challenger in line’.”
At least in the opening weeks of the season that prediction appears to be holding water. Although it is the toughest test of the season for the Toffees so far, having beaten Tottenham, West Brom, Crystal Palace and Brighton. this is the strongest Everton team Liverpool have faced in years.
“They did the perfect business in the summer. They found exactly the players that they needed to improve an already pretty good football team. Together, getting more used to what Carlo wants them to do makes them a pretty strong team,” Klopp explained of the changes.
Klopp also said that he ‘expected’ Everton striker Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who has scored nine goals in all competitions already in 2020/21, to make the progress he has done. The Premier League’s September Player of the Month will relish the physical battle with Virgil van Dijk.
“He has everything you need in a top striker: size, mobility, speed, desire, technically really, really good, in the air, finishing with his head, both feet,” Klopp commented.
The Liverpool boss also name-dropped James Rodriguez, Richarlison, Allan and Gylfi Sigurdsson as player who pose a potential danger to the Reds.
“It's a really, really good team and the last line works better because in a good team it's easier to defend. That's what you see when you watch Everton, so it will be a really interesting game,” he said.